Source: Times, The (UK)
Address: PO Box 496, London E1 9XN, United Kingdom
Fax: +44-(0)171-782 5046
Copyright: 1967 Times Newspapers Ltd
Pubdate: July 1, 1967
Author: William Rees-Mogg, Editor
WHO BREAKS A BUTTERFLY ON A WHEEL?
Mr. Jagger has been sentenced to imprisonment for three months. He is appealing against conviction and sentence, and has been granted bail until the hearing of the appeal later in the year. In the meantime, the sentence of imprisonment is bound to be widely discussed by the public. And the circumstances are sufficiently unusual to warrant such discussion in the public interest.
Mr. Jagger was charged with being in possession of four tablets containing amphetamine sulphate and methyl amphetamine hydrochloride: these tablets had been bought, perfectly legally, in Italy, and brought back to this country. They are not a highly dangerous drug, or in proper dosage a dangerous drug at all...
In Britain, it is an offence to possess these drugs without a doctor's prescription. Mr. Jagger's doctor says that he knew and had authorised their use, but he did not give a prescription for them as indeed they had already been purchased. His evidence was not challenged. This was therefore an offence of a technical character, which, before this case drew the point to public attention, any honest man might have been liable to commit...
Judge Block directed the jury that the approval of a doctor was not a defence in law to the charge of possessing drugs without a prescription and the jury convicted. Mr. Jagger was not charged with complicity in any other drug offence that occurred in the same house...
We have, therefore, a conviction against Mr. Jagger purely on the ground that he possessed four Italian pep pills, quite legally imported without a prescription. Four is not a large number. This is not the quantity which a pusher of drugs would have on him, nor even the quantity one would expect in an addict. In any case, Mr. Jagger's career is obviously one that does involve great personal strain and exhaustion; his doctor says that he approved the occasional use of these drugs, and it seems likely that similar drugs would have been prescribed if there was a need for them.
One has to ask, therefore, how it is that this technical offence, divorced as it must be from other people's offences, was thought to deserve the penalty of imprisonment.
The normal penalty is probation, and the purpose of probation is to encourage the offender to develop his career and to avoid the drug risks in the future. It is surprising therefore that Judge Block should have decided to sentence Mr. Jagger to imprisonment and particularly surprising as Mr. Jagger's is about as mild a drug case as can ever have been brought before the Courts.
It would be wrong to speculate on the judge's reasons which we do not know. It is however, possible to consider the public reaction. There are many people who take a primitive view of the matter, what one might call a pre-legal view of the matter. They consider that Mr. Jagger has "got what was coming to him". They resent the anarchic quality of the Rolling Stones' performances, dislike their songs, dislike their influence on teenagers and broadly suspect them of decadence, a word used by Miss Monica Furlong in the Daily Mail .
As a sociological concern this may be reasonable enough, and at an emotional level it is very understandable, but it has nothing at all to do with the case. One has to ask a different question: has Mr. Jagger received the same treatment as he would have received if he had not been a famous figure, with all the criticism and resentment his celebrity has aroused?